The next morning I found my way back to the infirmary to have my leg checked over. Walking was becoming much easier, and I caught myself putting most of my weight on the leg instead of the crutch. The majority of the other bruises and sprains were also starting to fade, and it felt good to be able to move without continually feeling as if a tendon or two were about to pop loose.
Veldra confirmed my unofficial diagnosis. "Looks like you're going to get out of all this pretty well unscathed," she said admiringly as she peeled off several dozen biodegraded bandages. "You're one tough cookie, all right. I didn't want to tell you before just what a close call you had." I told her about finding my sword a few feet from my head, and she whistled. "You do lead a charmed life, don't you?"
I snorted skeptically. "I'm here, aren't I? How lucky can I be?"
A cloud passed over her face. "That was a bad break for you, I know. I think I've given up hope of ever getting home to my family. I suppose they've written me off for dead by now." Underneath the cheerful exterior I sensed something closer to despair than depression.
"How long have you been here?" I asked sympathetically.
"Nearly a year, I guess. It seems so much longer, though."
"Look," I said. "These people don't run Deshtiris now. Sooner or later Kiri--the Empire is going to find us. Although they do a good job of covering their tracks," I added ruefully. I told her about the torn clothing they'd left behind, and the dogs.
"So you met The Boss, huh?" she responded. "What did old Tenako want with you?" I looked at her in surprise.
"Then you know about him?" I asked. "I assumed only his staff knew."
"Tenako treats all of us the same," she answered. "Prisoner or Brizal, at least he doesn't discriminate. We're all 'just staff' to him. Except for the Earthers, who he tolerates but detests. Teyn would've been a lot different; I hear he was a real bastard. For all his obsessions, Tenako tries to be decent most of the time."
"Decent and ruthless," I corrected her. "What happened to the two thugs that shot me down?" I added, remembering something Tenako had said about them being disciplined.
"They were shot with their own rifles and thrown to the dogs," she answered with a shudder. "He made sure it was well publicized. Wants to keep the other visitors in line, I guess." Served them right, I told myself, but it was a chilling warning nonetheless. Getting in Tenako's way was clearly a straightforward way to get killed. At least he didn't have Liquidators now.
Promising to stop back within the next day or two, I headed back to my room, wondering when I would see Tenako again. I realized then that I was viewing him as a challenge. There was something in him that seemed to present an opening, although I couldn't quite define what. Whatever it was, I vowed to find it and use it in any way I could to get myself and the other prisoners out of here.
"A few Deshtiran battleships would put a quick end to this whole farce," I growled to myself. "If they could just find us."
Tenako was back the following day. Rather to my surprise, he looked me up and down, remarking, "Looks like you're making a clean recovery. A lot fewer bandages this time, I see."
"Yeah," I muttered, "looks that way. So what do you want today?"
"We have some unfinished business," he began, ignoring the unpleasant tone. "I believe you were going to tell me what really happened at Tar Deshta last time, when we were distracted by your little misadventure in--what was it, Fontana? I'd like to know just what really occurred." He looked at me expectantly.
I paused, remembering again with a shiver a blood-covered Kiri, propped up against a cabinet, laboriously tapping code into a console in front of her while distracting Tenako with her tale, until she hit one final key and shut down the entire feedback system. The effort had nearly finished her, and Tenako, in a fury, had tried to kill her. It was then that Will had unexpectedly blown him to bits with an energy bolt. We had made a final headlong dash to the Futaba, barely escaping with our lives.
My first inclination two days ago had been to tell him as little as possible, of course. But I'd given the matter a lot of thought in the meantime, and finally realized that the only slight chance I had of deflecting him from his mad course was to tell him the truth. At least I didn't see how it could do any harm. So I told him. Everything.
"How can you even consider trying to revive your crazy plans?" I finished in astonishment. "You have no resources left. You can't seriously be planning to retake Deshtiris from this small base."
He nodded. "Quite right. That's why we've decided to turn our attentions to Earth instead. Originally it was to wait until Qozernon was secured, but events now dictate otherwise."
"Earth," I said in disbelief. "A planet that doesn't even have space travel."
"No," he agreed. "However, it has a huge industrial base, and leaders even more ruthless about exploiting it than I was, in spite of certain environmental damage. And as for technology, it's a simple trade. We give them what they want, and they use it. For our purposes, of course, although most of them don't know that yet."
It suddenly hit me. "The green lasers Alan was talking about," I said, my heart sinking.
"Actually," he went on, "that's just to facilitate the takeover. There are already two transformer stations about to go into operation in North America, and several others under construction in various underdeveloped nations. And once the takeover is complete, we'll use Earth's industrial infrastructure to build the ships to take over the Twin Planets. Deshtiris is still reeling from the economic shock of reconstruction, and Qozernon never has had the heart to support a large military."
"Didn't you hear anything I told you?" I exploded in fear and frustration. "Do you really want to be the man that wipes out the human race?" I felt terror rising in me as I realized just how practical his plans were. "What is this to you, a religion? We're talking about everything here!" I knew I was becoming incoherent in my excitement and stopped, to find myself shaking uncontrollably.
"That is very interesting. I wonder how much is true?" he reflected calmly.
"It's all true," I insisted angrily. "There's no conceivable reason for me to lie to you about any of this. Can't you understand that?"
He seemed momentarily lost in thought. "I do need to know what you really think, and what you really know. There are issues here that I should investigate more closely." He suddenly made up his mind about something, and stood up and strode over to the telecom. "Send a medic to Amkor Senaria's quarters for an engram prep," I heard him say, after which he broke the connection.
"What's that?" I asked nervously. "Is something wrong?" I received no answer; he seemed to have withdrawn into a world of his own. Just minutes later there was a knock at the door and one of the medics from the clinic entered, a cold-faced fellow (not one of the prisoners) that I'd previously cataloged as having no feelings at all for his patients. At a nod from Tenako he stepped alongside me. I suddenly heard the soft hiss of an injection, and felt a tell-tale tingle in my shoulder. "What the hell are you doing?" I demanded angrily, shoving him away. A moment later I began to feel strangely disconnected, as though my mind were no longer in control of my body.
"This will be much less unpleasant if you cooperate," said Tenako. "It's a mild tranquilizer. The alternative is to put you in restraints."
I was feeling quite woozy now, although it didn't seem to affect my ability to stand. "What are you going to do?" I heard myself ask in a distinctly slurred voice.
"Come with me," he said, and to my horror my body did as he instructed without hesitation, although my mind was silently shouting Stop! at the top of its lungs.
He led the two of us down several diverging corridors, finally stopping at a room with a plain wooden door. Inside I saw a bank of computer equipment against the far wall, and an ordinary wooden chair in the middle of the room. "Sit there, please," he said, and obediently I did so, all the while struggling futilely against the spell that seemed to have taken over my body.
"There is only one way for me to really know what you saw and heard, and how much of it you believe yourself, and that is for me to upload your neural engrams to a file and download them to my own brain. Then there will be no uncertainty involved. As I explained earlier, I can now do this without your personality overriding mine." I recoiled in horror and tried to speak, but by this time it was impossible to get even my voice to obey my will. "Filename Amkor Senaria," I heard him say, and from somewhere a voice answered "Ready."
He looked at me. "I'm afraid you may find this somewhat unpleasant. Be assured that you will not be harmed. Upload now," he added, and for just an instant I felt an odd prickling sensation on my scalp.
And then my mind seemed to race out of control as I literally saw my life unroll before my eyes. Layer after layer of memory was peeled away and held up for review, as if I were both reliving events and watching them from outside myself. Long-forgotten experiences, childhood fears, nightmares. I saw the public Senaria everyone knew, and the private one with my most hidden and intimate feelings and experiences. There was the agonizing pain of the day I broke my arm climbing one of my mother's ancient trees, and the ecstasy the first time I made love.
On it went, relentlessly, endlessly. I once again relived the day I hesitantly told Kiri I was in love with her, and then the night Will and I found her dead in a pool of her own blood, and felt all of the gut-wrenching emotions of both. It was like having my mind stripped naked, and it went on for a lifetime, and through it all I faintly heard my own voice sobbing "Stop it...Stop it...Stop it..."
I woke up in a bed in the infirmary. I couldn't remember how it had ended, only that I finally seemed to be emerging out of a deep calming oblivion. I tried to sit up, and to my relief found that my body was again obeying my commands. Only a splitting headache remained as a souvenir of what I'd experienced. I found Tenako and Veldra standing nearby watching me intently, the former with an odd expression on his face. "How are you feeling?" he asked.
"How do you think I feel," I mumbled, finding my voice still unsteady. I tried to muster a glare but somehow I doubt that it was very impressive. At a gesture from Tenako Veldra performed several tests on me, mostly of the how-many-fingers-am-I-holding-up variety, finally concluding, "She should be fine. I don't see any signs of permanent damage."
"I'm glad to hear you're all right," he said to me, and it almost seemed as if there were real concern in his voice. I decided my imagination was still a bit overheated after what I'd been through. "The download also proceeded without problems," he added. "It's proving very interesting. When you're feeling better, we'll talk," and he turned on his heel and left without further ado.
I wondered how much he'd seen, and then it hit me like a kick in the stomach that he'd seen all of it; it was part of his own mind and memories now. You goddam bastard, I raged inwardly. Rape is relatively uncommon on the Twin Planets, but I couldn't help thinking that what I'd experienced was in reality just a technologically sophisticated variation on an age-old depredation.
"I know I told you to come back in three days," Veldra said, trying to make a weak joke to cheer me up, "but you didn't have to go through all this just to get your leg checked."
THE THREE MINDS. Copyright © 1998, 2000, 2001 Lamont Downs. All rights
reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or
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This page last updated 2/5/2010.|